10 things 10 months in the Peace Corps taught me

1. You’re feelings are valid.
People have real struggles all over the world. But just because there are people in the world who are sadder than you, doesn’t mean you can’t be sad. It’s okay to be frustrated when your boss is unavailable, even if it happens all the time. It’s okay to be sad when you’re dog runs away, even if you knew it was going to happen. Just because there are people in the world who have harder struggles, doesn’t mean you’re struggles aren’t hard for YOU.

2. Care less about what other people think of you.
People are going to judge you no matter what you do. You can apologize, you can change. And sometimes, people will still continue to believe whatever they want to. So what. Develop a tough skin and shake it off. Learn how to give fewer sh*ts. Be true to yourself and love yourself. At the end of the day, it’s YOU that has to live with YOURself for the rest of YOUR life. Nobody else.

3. Don’t be shy.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you want, to be demanding, to tell someone how you feel, to let someone know if they’re pissing you off. Don’t let your frustrations weigh you down just because you were too afraid to tell someone how you feel. Be comfortable enough to express yourself. You have to open and honest and forthcoming with people. In every aspect of your life–in friendships, relationships, with family, and at work–speak up! Say how you feel. Always. Life is short.

4. Be grateful.
Peace Corps makes us all a little cynical. We’re jealous of what other volunteers have, we’re jealous of volunteers who live in cities, with showers, with toilets. We’re jealous of the things other volunteers are doing, the work that they are doing. We constantly compare ourselves. But you can’t forget to be grateful for what you have and where you are, you have to remain grateful for the work that you are doing. And especially, most of all, be grateful for where you came from, a country who gives us the opportunity to come here and do these things in the first place.

5. Learn how to say “No”
Don’t ever agree to something you truly don’t want to do or don’t believe in because you feel obligated to. You shouldn’t ever feel like you HAVE to do something because you’re afraid of what people will think (see no. 2). Be able to say, I’ve had enough, this is too much. I can’t do this. Say No. Know your limits. Some people won’t understand, but some people will. At the same time, be able to recognize the difference between being unmotivated and actually unavailable. Don’t say “No” just because you’re lazy.

6. You’re not better than anyone else.
You joined the Peace Corps, you made the crazy courageous decision to live in a developing country for 2 years. Yeah, it’s pretty cool, but it doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It doesn’t make you better than your friends back home. Just because you’re American, doesn’t mean you’re any better than the people you serve, either. Just because you went to college, or have a good job, doesn’t mean you’re better than anyone. Everyone has fought different battles in life. Don’t be an a**hole.

7. Don’t be afraid of fear.
If there’s one thing that can be guaranteed about your PC service, it’s that at one point or another, you will undoubtedly be afraid, or feel dumb, or fail. Don’t shy away from awesome opportunities just because you’re afraid–afraid of looking stupid, afraid of shitting the bed. These things are inevitable. You won’t know what your capable of if you don’t try. You have to make mistakes sometimes to become successful. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Seriously.

8. Take chances.
Do things you’d never thought you’d do before, go places you’d never though you’d go–places you may never return to. Seize opportunities you may likely never get again. Don’t waste time. Text that cute guy you’ve had a crush on. Go to the mountains with 10 people who don’t speak your language. Take chances on people, in relationships, at work, IN LIFE. You will always regret the chances that you DIDN’T take, right? So take risks! Joining the Peace Corps is a huge risk in itself, so go big or go home. Literally.

9. Be kind to other humans.
Period. PC didn’t teach me this, it made me understand how important it is. You may not understand the people you encounter in life, where they come from, their traditions, beliefs, values, or what they’ve been through. But, we’re all in this together. Judge less. I’m not saying be friends with every one, because you can’t expect everyone to like you–but it doesn’t mean you can’t at least be nice. There’s enough terrible things going on around all of us, why the hell do we have to make it harder on each other? A little compassion goes a really long way.

10. Do you.
Because I don’t think I’ve said this enough. It’s simple really. Accept yourself for who you are. Don’t ever feel like you have to hide things, don’t feel like you need to be secretive, or ashamed, or whatever. Be confident in yourself. And above all, do what makes you feel good. It’s your life.

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6 thoughts on “10 things 10 months in the Peace Corps taught me

  1. Awesome stuff Stephanie. You are such a great writer. I tell Uncle Lyle about #2 and #5 all the time. He is still working on those two. It took a lot of courage to do what you did. We are so proud of you.Keep writing these posts. We love to read them.

  2. There are not enough words in the English language that describes how proud of you I am. You are a strong, brave, and confident young lady. I love you more than you will ever know. I can’t wait for JULY!!!

  3. I was thrilled to see an article posted and penned by you! Loved the list:) Sounds like our experiences led to similar realizations (although your experiences abroad are still a year away from their conclusion and I was no where near as out of my element). Loved reading this though! Great to hear your voice through the words.

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